Umno signaled that it is preparing for the 15th General Election (GE15) soon when it announced that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the government and the opposition Pakatan Harapan will not be extended beyond July 31, the date by which the government would not call for elections.
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has concurred with Umno. So, all political parties will now be gearing up for the GE at any time. If the GE is called soon after July 31, the passing of an anti-hopping bill, which is a condition of the MoU, will only benefit Umno.
So, it wasn’t surprising that Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi when announcing the end of the MoU on July 31, also said that the anti-hopping bill should be passed soon. That precisely is the reason why it should not be passed.
Umno will be unable to become the sole Malay-based party with the most number of MPs if some of its MPs left the party and joined other parties. Umno needs its stable of MPs intact in order to form a coalition with a majority. If a number of its MPs leave the party, Umno will not succeed in forming the next government.
Umno MPs, however, may be reluctant to leave Umno because they need Umno’s machinery and cash reserves to win their seats. But, after winning the seats, they may be more willing to switch sides.
For this reason alone, it might be better for the anti-hopping bill to be deferred, preferably to another time under an able leadership that can provide the oversight to table a well-thought-through ironclad bill that strengthens the constitution rather than compromise or clash with other parts of the constitution.
If the bill is deferred, opposition parties may risk losing some of their MPs in or after the GE. But that can be addressed with individual contracts with candidates who are selected to stand for election.
At this time in the history of our young nation, letting go of the anti-hopping bill until another time will be seen as a magnanimous move by the non-Malay and urban parties to give other Malay-based MPs room to move until a Malay-majority coalition is formed that excludes Umno, PAS and Bersatu. It may be an incentive for MPs to switch to other parties in order to defeat Umno.
Already, opposition MPs are suggesting a “big tent” strategy to bring opposition parties under one banner. If they succeed, it would be a clear indication that Umno or its coalition, Barisan Nasional, will be unable to get a majority. That might be another incentive for MPs currently in the government to leave their parties to join the Opposition.
The current gridlock that has kept political parties from moving ahead may be broken when MPs move to the Opposition that can form the next government. They would save themselves and the nation. Think about it!